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CORNELL UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

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THE GIFT OF 

JAMES MORGAN HART 

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3 1924 026 124 994 



The Elizabethan Playhouse 



BY 

Dr. F. E. SCHELLING 



Reprinted from toe 
Proceedings oi tie Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadelphia 

1910 

v. 
C6 




The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31 9240261 24994 



THE ELIZABETHAN PLAYHOUSE. 

By Dr. F. E. Schelling. 

(Read to the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Philadel- 
. phia, November 19, 1908.) 

It is my purpose to set before you, this evening, the localities 
of the chief theatres of the London of Shakespeare; to describe 
how they developed from the Inn Yards, previously used for 
theatrical purposes ; and to explain somewhat the nature and con- 
struction of these old playhouses. All of the slides, save the 
diagrams of construction and the reconstructed Elizabethan play- 
houses, are derived from contemporary maps, prints or sketches, 
and have, therefore, the value and sanction of documents. The 
material is, all of it, thoroughly well-known and authentic. 

The population of the City of London in the year 1580 has been 
estimated at 123,000 souls. It scarcely reached 200,000 twenty- 
three years later, when King James came to the throne,. London 
was then, as now, the center of the English speaking world; but 
that world was smaller in population than our single State of 
New York or Pennsylvania, and interests, political, social and 
literary, were concentrated in the metropolis to a degree far 
beyond the present, even in England. (Norden's Map of Lon- 
don, 1593, Fig. 53.) The London of Elizabeth was as yet a walled 
town, although the houses had grown out beyond it on almost 
all sides, and many of the nearer villages were connected with 
the city by an almost unbroken line of buildings. The city ex- 
tended along the Thames from the Tower to Bridewell Palace, 
and back from the river about a mile and a half. The city was 
entered by seven gates, which are still commemorated in the 
names of streets, precincts and parishes, such as Aldgate, Bishops- 
gate, Moorgate, Cripplegate, Aldgate, Newgate and Ludgate. 
The Thames was, in those days, a clear and swiftly flowing 
stream. Foreign travelers in England told of the many swans 
that floated on its waters, of the stately houses of the nobility 
that adorned its banks, and of the beautiful gardens which sloped 
to the water's edge between Blackfriars and Westminster. 

The river, moreover, was a thoroughfare not only of commerce, 

(143) 



144 

but of pleasure. It was easier to go to Westminster, the seat of 
the Court, by water than by land. Suburban ways were foul 
and beset with danger. Coaches and carriages were a late innova- 
tion of Elizabeth's reign. The queen had ridden on horseback 
to her coronation. It was on the Thames that her majesty took 
the air in her royal barge, rowed by the strong arms of her house- 
hold servants, and the humblest apprentice might row with a 
single sculler for a penny, and, cap in hand, watch his queen as 
she passed in state. 

London within the walls was ruled by the Lord Mayor, his 
two Sheriffs, and a council of Aldermen, representing the vari- 
ous wards of the city and likewise the several craft-guilds or 
trades' associations of the city. The coats-of-arms which sur- 
round the first of the accompanying cuts, are those of these guilds. 
The jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor stopped at Temple Bar, at 
the end of Fleet Street to the west, at the Tower to the east, 
and in the middle of London Bridge, which connected the city 
with the Borough of Southwark. This borough is in Surrey, 
London is in Middlesex, and Southwark was variously subject 
to the King and to the Bishop of Winchester. Southwark and 
the Bankside — as the part of Southwark which lay along the 
river to the west was popularly called — was thus, from very early 
times a place of refuge and of license. London Bridge was the 
only bridge over the Thames within the precincts of the city. 
This structure is described by Stow as "very rare, having with 
the drawbridge, twenty arches made of squared stone of height 
sixty feet and in breadth, thirty f eet, .... compact and joined 
together with vaults and cellars ; upon both sides be houses built, 
so that it seemeth rather a continual street than a bridge." From 
London Bridge the chief thoroughfare north and south was 
through New Fish Street (now King William Street) to Gracious 
or Gracechurch Street, and thence through Bishopsgate Street 
to Bishops' Gate. In a walk northward along the streets just 
named to Bishopsgate, when Shakespeare was a boy, he would 
have passed the Bell and the Crosskeys in Gracechurch Street 
and the Bull in Bishopsgate Street, all of them inns, the yards 
of which were commonly used for theatrical performances. Had 
we extended this walk through Bishopsgate and out on the road 
leading thence to the village of Shorditch, about half a mile or 
more from the gate, turning short to the right, we might have 
stood on the spot on which the first structure expressly built 



145 

for the performance of plays was shortly to be erected. This 
was the Theatre. Near it stood the Curtain. Once more, had 
we extended our walk in the opposite direction and passed over 
London Bridge, turning from the Southwark end to our right, 
we should have seen, stretched along the river, no less than four 
theatres. But these were of later times than the inns. Other 
inns were in early times thus employed. Such was the Bell Sav- 
age on Ludgate Hill, Blackfriars', where later Shakespeare's 
winter theatre was situated, Whitefriars, just without the walls 
to the west, and the places vaguely known in the records as 
"Nigh Pauls" and "In the City." 

In a drawing by Railton, 1560, four years before Shakespeare's 
birth, London Bridge appears with the shops upon it and a real- 
istic representation of the heads of traitors exposed on pikes 
over the gateway of the drawbridge to admonish her majesty's 
liege subjects of the fate awaiting traitors. Need we wonder at 
the horrors of a play like Titus Andronicus and try to prove 
that they are not Shakespeare's, or shudder at that terrible scene 
in King Lear in which Gloucester's eyes are torn out on the stage, 
when we recall that suicides in those days were buried at the 
cross roads with a stake driven through their vitals, that male- 
factors were hung in chains and left fof years to pollute the air 
till their carcasses dropped into shreds and tatters ; whilst offend- 
ers against the state were drawn and quartered and their heads, 
previously boiled in oil to make them weatherproof, were thus 
gibbeted in public places? Shakespeare, when he came a lad to 
the metropolis, might have cast his eyes on what remained of 
the noble head of Sir Thomas More, for it was exposed for years 
over this very gate. (Visscher's View of London, 1616, Fig. 54.) 
In this picture the large church across the river is' the Cathedral 
of St. Paul's, not the present one, but that destroyed in the great 
fire in 1666. The foreground of this picture is the Bankside, 
Southwark. The large church near to the bridge is St. Mary 
Overy's, later known as St. Saviours, now the Cathedral of 
Southwark. Here lie buried Gower, Chaucer's friend, Fletcher, 
Massinger and other players and playwrights. It has been 
thought by some that Shakespeare was at one time a resident 
of Southwark, and that here he attended church. Among the 
entries of burial in the year 1607, that of one Edmund Shakes- 
peare, a player, is recorded, and it is also noted that he was 
buried with a forenoon knell of the great bell, for which the 



146 

charge was twenty shillings. As a man might have been buried 
for twelve pence, is it too hazardous to infer that the great brother 
of this forgotten player gladly expended twentyfold the needed 
sum that due reverence might be paid to the dead? 

This section from a map of London, published by Agas, in 
1560, represents, to the north, the general character of the Lib- 
erty of Holywell in the Parish of Shorditch, as it then appeared. 
Shorditch was without the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor. 
Hence when the Lord Mayor and his Council, who were strongly 
Puritan, at length succeeded in banishing plays from the pre- 
cincts of the city, the actors established themselves at Shorditch 
and thus outwitted their enemies. The first playhouse to be 
built in England was the Theatre, and it was erected in the year 
1576. Its builder was James Burbage, the father of the famous 
actor, Richard Burbage, and himself an actor of some repute. 
In the agreement which Burbage made with the owner of the 
land, he was to have the right, under certain conditions, to re- 
move the material with which the structure was built; a right 
which his heirs afterwards claimed and exercised. Access to 
the Theatre seems, in the old times, to have been over Finsbury 
Fields. The Curtain (which curiously is named from the region 
or old manor on which the playhouse was erected and not from 
the familiar drapery of the stage) was situated south of Holy- 
well Lane in Moorsfield (modern Gloucester Street), and is first 
mentioned in the following year, 1577. Shakespeare's Romeo 
and Juliet was among the many plays first acted there. The The- 
atre was moved away to the Bankside and the old materials were 
employed in building the Globe, Shakespeare's theatre, in 1598. 
The Curtain continued to be used as a theatre far into the reign 
of King James. Save for an unsatisfactory detail of Ryther's 
pictured map, no cuts have been handed down representing either 
of these old playhouses. And owing to their position without 
the walls, none of the old maps represent their location with 
precision. 

Let us return to the Bankside. This view of London by Hol- 
lar, in 1620, gives a clearer idea of the theatres and their situ- 
ation. The Swan is furthest from the bridges. It was perhaps 
built on the site previously occupied by Paris Garden, which had 
been used from very early times for bull and bear-baiting. The 
Swan was in repute about 1598. This theatre was not far from 
the Falcon Stairs as the neighboring landing place was called. 




Fig. S.s. The X™- Globe Theatre. Opened in the year i6r 



4- 



147 

It is supposed that Shakespeare lived near to this landing while 
a resident of Southwark. The next theatre coming toward the 
bridge is the Hope, which is supposed to have occupied the old 
site oi the Bear Garden. This place was used for all sorts of en- 
tertainments, theatrical and other, and was finally closed by Par- 
liament in 1642, when triumphant Puritanism put down all the 
theatres and reduced the staple of English amusement to medi- 
tation and prayer. The playhouse adjoining the Hope on the 
right was the Rose. This was certainly open in 1592, as it was 
in that year that a play on Henry VI was acted there and attracted 
large audiences because of the excellence of certain scenes depict- 
ing the exploits of Talbot- against the French in the years after 
the death of King Henry V. It is notable that several fine scenes 
of an otherwise indifferent play, The first part of Henry VI, are 
those which concern Talbot ; and it is the belief of some that the 
play, as we have it, is Shakespeare's only in those parts: mat- 
ters which point to Shakespeare as the cause of this popular suc- 
cess of a revised play. The theatre nearest the bridge is the cele- 
brated Globe. 

The Globe was the playhouse which Burbage built in part with 
old materials brought from the demolition of the theatre in 
Shorditch. This structure was completely destroyed by fire in 
1613, during the performance of a play on Henry VIII, sup- 
posedly Shakespeare's. The accident was due to the firing of 
the thatched 'roof with the blazing wadding of a cannon which 
was shot off on the stage. Wh en we remember that the mnnw— 

pany, and other like things were customarily k p pt in-t fap-^w-rng- " 
room--with~~ Jhe wardrobe and properties, 1 w e can see at once 
what a loss this one fire has entailed to all students of Shakes- 
peare and the drama. The Globe was rebuilt in the next year, and 
it is described to us as "the fairest that ever was in England." 
(Fig. 55.) This picture scarcely seems to warrant this praise; 
and both this and the previous one, as only the details of larger 
maps, can in no wise be accepted as accurate representations of 
Shakespeare's famous playhouse. We may feel sure indeed that 
their proportions are by no means preserved; and that neither 
of these old structures, could we see them now as they were, 
would raise in us any feeling save wonder at their small size, 
their dinginess and general uncomfort. The Globe was finally 
demolished to make room for tenements in 1644. 



148 

The Blackfriars Theatre, commonly described as Shakespeare's 
winter theatre, was a private house offering many contrasts, 
which do not concern us here, to the early octagonal public 
theatres. In 1599, Edward Alleyn built the Fortune in Golden 
Lane, Cripplegate, to rival the Globe. From the detail of Ryth- 
er's Map this theatre appears thus (Fig. 56) : This theatre cost 
Alleyn the sum of £ 1,320, which, considering the purchasing- 
value of money at that time and translated into dollars, means 
about $30,000.00 or $40,000.00. This theatre also suffered from 
fire in 1621, and was re-erected in this form (The New Fortune). 
It was later suppressed by the Puritans. But the building was 
in existence, at least, as far as the facade here represented was 
concerned, as late as 1819. 

The earliest plays were acted on an improvised stage in the 
yards of inns. The inn-yard is structurally the original of the 
Elizabethan theatre. This slide represents a typical English inn- 
yard, dating about 1690. (Fig. 57.) It will be noticed that the 
building is constructed around a quadrangle to which there was 
usually but one entrance. The lower stories were used for stables, 
kitchens and storehouses, and were called in the speech of the 
day, "the offices." The living rooms for guests were situatedfl 
as on the continent generally to-day, in what we should call the 
second story. And about the yard, which lay open to the sky, 
ran a balcony, sometimes two, sometimes enclosed, onto which 
all the better rooms of the house opened. 

The ground plan of such an inn was the roughly quadrangled 
yard with a single entrance opposite the stable. The purpose of 
this construction was protection. Here are all the conditions of 
the theatre. A single entrance, at which "gate-money" might be 
charged, a wagon on the top of whMi a stage might be erected, 
the barn, back in which the actors m*ht dress and before which 
a rude curtain might be hung, a loft with a window looking out 
upon the courtyard which might be used to represent the walls 
of a beleagured city, Juliet's balcony, or the heavens out of which 
the gods appear. Moreover, as to auditors, his lordship and com- 
pany might ascend to one of the rooms of the second story and. 
bring thence chairs or stools on which to sit in the balcony over- 
looking the stage ; the poorer gentleman or man of the city might 
ascend a flight higher and be nearly as comfortable, save that 
his chair was not so soft and his view of the actors not quite so 
good; whilst the apprentice, tapster or other common fellow, 




Fig. 56. The Fortune Theatre, Golden Lane, Barbican, built 1599; 

burned 1621. 



149 

stood in the yard on the cobbles, craned his neck to see over his 
fellow's shoulders, and endured, if need be, a downpour of rain 
whilst his lordship sat snug under the eaves. There is practically 
no feature of the Elizabethan theatre which was not present, or at 
least suggested in the old inn-yards. The steps were not many 
by which the yard with its surroundings was transformed into 
the octagonal theatre of the day. This shape was assumed by 
cutting off the corners of the inn-yard and thus bringing the 
spectators that crowded in the corners nearer the stage. The • 
rooms were retained, as they have been to the present day, in 
what are called, in England, the stalls; the stage was made sta- 
tionary and brought out into the yard and a pent roof, as it was 
called, built over at least part of it. Whilst the stable was en- 
larged into the tiring-room and given two, at times three, en- 
trances to the stage, an advantage at once manifest. Another 
change consisted in raising part of the building above the stage, 
either by the addition of a story above the "scene" proper or by 
elevating the entire structure, making the circumference of the 
same height. The further addition of a cupola, from which a 
flag was raised while a play was performing on the stage, with 
a station for a trumpeter, were both obvious devices. From docu- 
ments which have been handed down concerning the building of 
theatres, we can reconstruct these old buildings as to their ma- 
terial and dimensions. Thus we hear of payments for thatchers 
for the roof, for "balusters," as they used to be called, for a pole 
■ from which to fly the flag, represented in the cuts which we 
have already seen here. The same contract demands that the 
foundation be of brick at least up to twelve inches from the 
ground, and that there be two boxes "fit for and decent for gen- 
tlemen to sit in," that the stage be supported by means of cer- 
tain thickness and many other details. Another document shows 
that the same structure was to be eighty feet square without, 
fifty-five within, that it was to have three galleries of a height 
respectively of twelve feet, eleven and nine; that the stage was 
to be forty feet: wide and extend into the yard twenty-seven feet. 
Such a house would be about forty feet in height and could 
accommodate an audience sitting and standing of about eight 
hundred or a thousand people. Shakespeare's theatre, the Globe, 
must have been much smaller than this. 



150 

Interior of the Swan, 1596. 

This is the most interesting document concerning the Eliza- 
bethan playhouse which we possess. It is a sketch of the Swan, 
made by one John de Witt, a Dutch traveler in England in the 
year 1596. (Fig. 58.) This sketch was copied into the com- 
mon-place book of one Buchell either from a letter or a diary 
of de Witt and was discovered only as late as 1888. The copy 
is in the Library of the University of Utrecht ; the original sketch 
by de Witt is lost. It will be noticed that all the features hereto- 
fore mentioned are here reproduced, from the flag and the trum- 
peter on the roof to the stage jutting into the yard, with its two 
entrances, the stage gallery and the tiers of balconies ; in this case 
three. It seems right, however, to observe that of late this famous 
sketch has been somewhat discredited, partly because it ill con- 
forms with some of the prejudices of scholars, and, more seri- 
ously, because it leaves unrepresented features of which we have 
certain evidence from other sources. Why, however, scholars 
should demand of the Elizabethan stage an absolute uniformity 
in detail of structure, when it is patent that such has never else- 
where been the case, seems to me beside the question ; and it does 
not seem absurd to believe, despite all proofs of curtains, scenery, 
or doors, one, two, or three, that the Swan in 1596 may have 
been in reality not much unlike this sketch. 

And now as to the structure of the Elizabethan stage. -cJt_is_ 
substantia lly agreed that that stage _copsistpH r»f lhree_2 mportan t 
partsj_an uninclosed platform extending into the middle of the 
auditorium; a rear stage separated (at least as to its middle 
part) from the front stage by a traverse or curtain run on a rod of 
wire ; and a gallery or balcony above the rear stage, curtained or 
not as the case might be© But here several questions arise ; how 
was such a stage arranged for the presentation of a play ; how was 
a play presented on it? What properties were there and how 
were they employed? Our documentary evidence as to these 
matters is unhappily slight, and at times conflicting; and the 
efforts of scholars at elucidation and even the several "Elizabethan 
stages" which have been at times erected for the service of par- 
ticular plays, while for' the most part helpful, have reached, and 
perhaps can reach no definite solution. Thus, in an early type of 
a stage, reproduced by Professor Baker from a print in the 
Grenville Library of the British Museum, we have no more than 




Av/Mms^t with & 



& 



Fig. 58. Swan Theatre, London. 



i5i 

an improvised platform in which the familiar arras hangings of 
the usual Elizabethan room do service for scene and curtain. On 
the other hand, while the stage represented on the title page of 
Alabaster's Roxana, represents the essential parts mentioned 
above; with a similar sketch from the title of Richard's Messa- 
lina, it clearly pictures a private stage, and belongs to the reign 
of King Charles. Once again, in the cut commonly called the 
Interior of the Red Bull, a post-Shakespearean playhouse, but 
perhaps only a stage for drolls, the gallery and the jutting stage 
are plainly in evidence ; but the traverse has become no more than 
a curtain concealing the single door, an arrangement which could 
' surely not have been universal, though recently, if I mistake not, 
maintained as such by no less an authority than Mr. Archer. 
Moreover as to this cut, which forms the frontispiece of a book 
of drolls, bearing as late a date as 1672, we have certainly a con- 
dition represented in the chandeliers and footlights which did not 
obtain in the earlier public performances by daylight at the 
Theatre and the older Globe. The characters here represented 
are all, however, familiar to the Jacobean stage at the least. The 
Changeling is from Middleton's famous tragedy of that title, Tu 
Quoque, who is emerging from the curtain, was a notable clown 
in Joshua Cooke's play, Greene's Tu Quoque, whilst the lame 
beggar was a favorite stock personage in many plays. Falstaff, 
the most popular of all Elizabethan characters, and Dame Quickly 
call for no word. 

Returning to the construction of the Elizabethan stage, its 
chief contrast with the stage of to-day appears to have been in 
this; our stage is a picture framed ; the Elizabethan_-wa«-_pxL. 
marily a platf orm for declamat ion. Our, stage attempts in its 
settings a more or less realistic~representation of scene;, the 
^H^beffian _ sTagejy^s_contenLto . suggest , atJimes -merely- to -sym= - 
bolize, th!Tsettings_ Hejiee our method of presenting a play makes 
for the reduction of intellectual effort, we are personally con- 
ducted throughout, and the imagination is rarely taxed. The 
Elizabethans demanded a partnership of the auditor. He was 
to imagine in his little wooden cockpit: 

"The vasty fields of France," 

and behold in half a dozen supernumeraries ; 

the very casques 
"That did affright the air at Agincourt;" 



152 

His mind's eye was to behold Cleopatra; in her habit as she 

lived, 

The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne 

Burned on the water; the poop was beaten gold; 

Purple the sails, and so perfumed that 

The winds were love-sick with them ; the oars were silver 

Which to the time of flutes kept stroke, and made 

The water which they beat to follow faster 

As amorous to their stroke. 

Such a passage as this last, could a contemporary of ours write 
it as a play, would be cut out as trespassing on the prerogatives 
of the stage carpenter. 

Of late several experimental Elizabethan stages have been con- 
structed abroad and here at home; and a German ingenuity has 
been at work to discover the constructive principles of the old 
London theatres, and to derive therefrom the dramaturgical 
theory of Elizabethan stage presentation. An interesting stage 
was employed, a few years since, at Leland Stanford University 
in California, in a successful presentation of Beaumont and 
Fletcher's "Knight of the Burning Pestle." (Fig. 59.) On this 
stage the curtain or traverse was arranged between the "pilas- 
ters." This complete shutting off, by means of a curtain drawn, 
of the rear balcony and of all exits has led to what has been 
called "the alternation theory," a theory developed of late years 
in the hands of several German scholars. Briefly stated, "the 
alternation theory" assumes that an Elizabethan dramatic per- 
formance was invariably continuous, and that the properties were 
habitually confined to the rear stage. But obviously, with such an 
assumption, no two scenes with different settings could imme- 
fp diately follow one after the other on the rear stage without 
1 breaking this continuity of action. A practical alternation of 
scenes between the two parts of the stage is, therefore, assumed, 
in order that the necessary rearrangements of properties might 
• be made behind the curtain while the action continued before it. 
Hence, all plays, during the prevalence of this mode of staging, 
must be conceived to have been arranged in a succession of "out- 
scenes" and "in-scenes" (as they have been dubbed), and this 
alternation becomes of necessity an important feature of Eliza- 
bethan dramatic construction; for, on the basis of such a suppo- 
sition, it follows that many "out-scenes" were written for no 
better purpose than to enable the shift of properties necessary 



153 

to the succeeding "in-scenes." It is impossible here to enter into 
the details of this theory. Suffice it is to say that Brodmeier, 
its most thorough-going exponent has confessedly confined him- 
self to an examination of the practice of Shakespeare, ineptly 
omitting all his fellow-workers in the drama. Indeed we need 
be troubled with no fears that our notions of the staging of 
Shakespearean drama are in any immediate danger of overthrow 
by the theory of alternating scenes. Admirable stages, some- 
what different in arrangement, have been constructed at Harvard 
and elsewhere. Most elaborate among them was that of the 
Elizabethan Stage Society, the motive force of which has been 
for many years Mr. William Poel. It was Mr. Poel who 
started interest in the representation of plays after the Eliza- 
bethan manner and revived with painstaking study and industry 
the very spirit of old time. 

Once entered into the dark oval of an Elizabethan theatre the [/ 
first thing that must have struck the visitor's eye was the fine 
gallants that sat and postured on the stage, who smoked, played 
cards, critized the play and the actors to their faces or bandied 
jokes or abuse with the groundlings that stood below on the 
stones of the yard. The proscenium box is said to have been 
devised to rid the stage of these troublesome interlopers. On 
the stage in early times was a piece of ordnance or cannon which 
was shot off to announce that the performance was about to 
begin. A throne was commonly set to' denote the state of kings 
and the furnishings and settings were often of the rudest; and 
what was worse were sometimes left indiscriminately together 
on the stage. That signs were at times hung up to denote the v 
scene is not a fiction. Venice, Elsinore, the Forest of Arden, all 
must so "have been represented. In some of the older plays the 
stage directions are ludicrous in the extreme. "Let the messenger 
be led off to execution and a head be brought in on a pike." 
"Here let Venus descend, if you conveniently can, from above." 
Even in the reign of King James, the exigencies of one historical 
play demanded, "Enter Queen Elizabeth in bed." None the less 
while Shakespeare was still in London, there must have been a 
great improvement in these matters owing to the effect which 
the magnificent settings of the masques at court must have had on 
the popular stage. We may feel sure that scenes painted on 
canvas and taken on and off the stage were not unknown to 
Shakespeare, and we know on the evidence of- no less an authority 



iS4 

than Ben Jonson that "a piece of perspective" was on the public 
stage in the year 1600, and on the evidence of Decker that, in 
1609, a gallant on the stage is spoken of as standing at the helm 
"to steer the passage of the scenes.'* Juliet's tomb, the cave 
which Imogen enters, must have been so represented. In earlier 
times and at the commoner theatres the embellishments of the 
stage were eked out by the "arras," as it was called. This was 
a hanging made to imitate tapestry hung on a frame as was usual 
in the houses of the day and standing out a couple of feet from 
the walls, which in unheated houses were damp in winter. - It 
was behind such a tapestry that Prince Henry found Falstaff 
"asleep and snorting like a horse"; and it was behind such a 
hanging that Polonius hid to overhear Hamlet's interview with 
his mother and, mistaken for the king, was killed by the prince. 

When the play was on the point of beginning, the trumpet 
sounded from the tower and the prologue entered. The prologue 
was originally the author who personally solicited a favorable 
reception for his play. For this reason the prologue was usually 
clad in black, the clerkly color. Later the prologue was greatly 
developed and became in what was called the induction, a separate 
scene, even at times a little prefatory play. 

In this view of the stage of the Elizabethan Society we have 
the stage fully peopled, the balcony and gallery boxes (per- 
haps the old "lord's room") being occupied as well. The 
kneeling attitude of the players and the doffed hats of the 
auditors denote a pleasing and impressive ceremony with which 
the earlier strictly Elizabethan plays invariably concluded. This 
was the prayer for the queen; an act in no wise incongruous to 
the flexible Elizabethan mind, but consonant with the mingling 
of religious with dramatic impulses which was handed down 
from time immemorial in the old sacred drama. 

Within the last year two hypothetical stages involving new 
suggestions have been put forth. The first is a reconstruction by 
Mr. Godfrey, an English architect, from the original specifica- 
tions of the year 1600 for the building of the Fortune Theatre 
(Fig. 60). In it we note, besides the familiar features already 
sufficiently adverted to, the placing of the two side doors of exit 
from the stage at an angle cutting off the corners of the back 
stage, and the addition of two flights of stairs on either side of 
the stage leading thence down into the yard. The latest hypo- 
thetical stage is that of Mr. V. E. Albright, lately a student of 




Fig. 60. The Fortune Theatre. Mr. Walter H. Godfrey's reconstruction 
from the Builder's Contract. 




■si 






T3 O 



o 



<: 



bo 



i5S 

Columbia University. Here the traverse or curtain between the 
"pilasters" is denied. The position of the side doors, just de- 
scribed, is preserved, but the front stage is shorn on either side 
so as to taper towards the front, and provided with a low guard 
rail. These later features are based on the cuts of the title pages 
of Roxana and Messalina, both mentioned above, and must be 
pronounced as directly in defiance of the builder's specifications 
for the Fortune. Mr. Albright's conclusions attempt to discredit 
not only the picture of de Witt, but much of the other contem- 
porary evidence as well. Finally Mr. Albright essays a modified 
rehabilitation of the alternation theory. 

Had I a stage to reconstruct, I should like to emphasize one or 
two points (Fig. 61). I should, for example, preserve more than 
has hitherto been done, save by Godfrey, the extensive platform 
thrust out into the middle of the yard ; I should place the two 
"pilasters" out at least a third of the distance of this forward 
thrust of the stage and bring them closer together. I should 
spread the balcony across the whole width of the back stage, mak- 
ing it a veritable gallery ; and I should provide three doors, not 
bunched in the middle, but spread across the back of the stage; 
and I should accept Godfrey's diagonal placing of the two side 
doors. By such a general arrangement, it seems to me that a 
freer play of action might be provided, for the side doors, or 
even the balcony, could be used even when the central traverse 
between the "pilasters" was drawn, whilst the balcony in any 
part and the entrances one or all might be employed as need 
might demand. Let me repeat in conclusion that only the doc- 
trinaire will demand a single style as representative of the variety 
of Elizabethan stage construction. A plank, a player and a pas- 
sion might have sufficed then, as now, for the sufficient presenta- 
tion of a true drama. 



OLIN LIBRARY - CIRCULATION 
DATE DUE 



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